After leading the Hammonds House Museum for 13 years, executive director Myrna Fuller retired from the southwest Atlanta art institution on April 30. The museum, founded in 1988, is dedicated to showing and preserving artwork by artists of the African Diaspora and Africa.
Like the leaders of many Atlanta nonprofits operating on a shoestring budget, Fuller managed to accomplish big things with minimal resources. The Hammonds recently completed a renovation and facilities upgrade project that included a new HVAC system, a rebuilt front porch and roof, back steps, patio, and interior work in the 150-year-old Victorian house.
Despite economic downturns and staffing shortages, Fuller was able to stabilize the organization, and even expanded the museum’s programming, fostered valuable relationships in the art community, and oversaw more than 50 exhibitions of emerging, midcareer and well established artists, among them, Arturo Lindsay, Lillian Blades, Louis Delsarte, and Katrina Andry, whose work is currently on view.
Cheryl Odeleye, who worked with Fuller for five years asa the membership and volunteer coordinator, describes her as a hard worker. “She’s the lady in the 5-inch heels setting up tables,” says Odeleye, referring to the grit and dedication it takes to run a nonprofit with limited resources.
“Myrna is a real relationship-builder,” says Odeleye, “that’s one of her greatest contributions to the grown of Hammonds House. She reached out to arts organizations, libraries, children’s programs and created partnerships with business in the neighborhood.” Odeleye also credits Fuller’s sensibility as an artist for transforming the museum into a first-class showcase for work by artists of African descent.
Fuller was passionate about children’s programs and initiated partnerships with organization’s like Wren’s Nest, the Atlanta Printmakers Studio, and BURNAWAY to offer workshops and activities for children and teens.
Fuller also facilitated the loan of artworks from the Hammonds’s permanent collection to such high-profile museums as the National Museum in Washington, DC, and the Prospect 3 biennial, as well as locally to the High Museum of Art Spelman College Museum, Atlanta Contemporary, and the Carlos Museum at Emory University, increasing awareness of the museum and adding value to its holdings.
Before joining Hammonds House in 2004, Fuller, who studied at Talladega College, had a rich career as an artist and graphic designer. She previously ran her own design firm, IView Graphics, established in 2000. Among her other leadership roles prior to that, she was art director with BBC Productions, managing director of the National Black Arts Festival, and executive director of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP. She continues to serve as co-chair of the Arts Advisory Board as well as a member of the steering committees for the United Arts Front and the Soul of Philanthropy initiative.
Fuller has long been active in the Atlanta art community and will continue to serve as co-chair of the Arts Georgia Advisory Board and on the steering committees for United Arts Front and the citywide Soul of Philanthropy initiative. In the past, she was on the board of the Arts Festival of Atlanta, and vice chair of the Fulton County Arts Council.
Leatrice Ellzy, who has worked at NBAF, the Woodruff Arts Center and Georgia Public Broadcasting, is serving as interim director at Hammonds House while the search for a new director is conducted.